candidate no experience

How to Hire a Candidate with No Experience for Your Startup

By Maxim Dsouza

As a small business owner, I had to often hire candidates fresh out of college, often they may be a candidate with no experience. The budget was tight, but we needed more members on the team to get work done. Recruiting an experienced resource was not affordable.

In such cases, finding the right fit among the many young candidates was a huge challenge.

Many startups face the same difficulty. Given that newcomers haven’t had the opportunity to improve their skills, how do you evaluate a potential employee? How do you differentiate who will provide the results you expect? How can you figure out if the interviewee is only saying things to get the job?

These doubts may have troubled you just like they bothered me a few years ago. I have made many incorrect judgments and hired people who did not fit in. Over time, I have identified some pointers which help in increasing the chances of recruiting the right fresher.

That said, you can never make a perfect decision with interviews. After all, you’re evaluating the person only for a few hours. You must aim to make a good call instead of the perfect choice.

So, how can you identify the right candidate with no experience? Take these five questions into consideration.

1. Is the candidate clear about wanting the role?

Sample question to ask – “We have another position open for <Unrelated role>. Are you interested?” Is the person looking for the specific role you’re offering or anything under the sun?

The interviewee does not need to adore your organization, but he must connect with the role. If he is willing to grab any position that comes his way, watch out. A person who is clear about the career he intends to pursue has a higher chance of putting in his best effort to succeed.

A person looking for any available job is more likely desperate for one. He may nod in agreement today, but hate the job role tomorrow. Sometimes, such candidates turn into great performers, but the chances are quite slim.

If you have enough applicants, always look for the candidate who is clear about pursuing a career only in the role you’re offering.

2. Does the candidate apply the basics well?

Do not ask out of the box questions to challenge the candidate or make the interview look cool. A student out of college hasn’t had the opportunity to work on exceptional cases.

Your job as an interviewer is to identify what the candidate is capable of and help him showcase his ability. Instead of asking him tricky questions, give him a real-life scenario of the work the role expects.

A sample question to ask is, “If you had to perform a task <Task related to the role> without training, how would you go about it?” Pick any expected challenge for the role and frame a question around it.

A sharp candidate will apply thought and use his current knowledge to handle the problem. The best candidates aren’t always the ones with the best grades, but the ones who effectively apply the information they have to the issue at hand.

3. Does the candidate know what his ideal future is?

Sample question to ask – “Ten year from now, what should you have accomplished, so that you look back at your career and say you did a good job?”

The question differs from the typical, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” People come prepared for such questions with generic answers off the internet. Their replies rarely depict their true identity.

When you tweak the question, you challenge the candidate to think deeper about career, happiness, and success.

More often than not, you will receive a truthful answer about the candidate’s goals. If your role helps the candidate with his goal, he has a higher chance of delivering results. If what the candidate is aiming for and what you’re offering is miles apart, the best option is to proceed to the next person.

When the long term goals of your employee and the role match, he will remain self-motivated and enthusiastic about doing his best.

4. Is the candidate afraid to ask questions or seek clarity?

A strong employee always wants to know what kind of role is he stepping into. Such candidates will have questions about the role, and they do not hesitate to speak out.

Again, people can come prepared with premeditated questions. Though that’s not a bad thing, it isn’t impressive either. The best queries are those which the candidate asks you based on the conversation you had during the interview.

A person bold enough to seek clarity and answers during the interview will do the same in the future.

Such employees continue the same behavior after joining. They challenge incorrect methods, find answers, and help your business growth. As a business owner, that’s exactly what you need.

5. How does the candidate respond to failure?

Sample question to ask, “Tell me about a situation you failed”

Everyone would have failed in some shape or form in their lives. Confident people have no concerns speaking about it. The insecure candidates only mention a minor failure instead.

It does not matter what scenario the person speaks about. But look out for the following key components in his response:

  • Does he blame others or the circumstances?
  • Or does he take accountability for the mishap?
  • Does he speak more about the problem or the solution?

People who do not admit mistakes and blame others for failure will continue doing so. A successful employee will honestly accept his flaws while explaining the attempt to find a solution.

Conclusion

Hiring is like taking a leap of faith, especially when considering a candidate with no experience. You cannot always guarantee success. The best you can do is reduce the chances of hiring the wrong person as much as possible.

As an interviewer, never ask the standard questions which anyone can prepare off the internet. Such answers do not tell you the real story of the candidate. At the same time, do not ask questions so unconventional that they have nothing to do with the role.

The aim of an interview isn’t only to gauge if he is a good fit for the role or not. You must help the candidate showcase his best ability. Drop any questions which do not serve that purpose.

An interview is not only a test for the candidate but also the interviewer. If you fail to bring the best out of the person, you have failed as an interviewer.

Leave a comment about a stressful experience you had with hiring a candidate with no experience, fresh out of college.

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Maxim Dsouza
Maxim Dsouza is a self improvement blogger who has over a decade of experience with startups. On his blog Productive Club, he shares the lessons he has learned about productivity, time management, entrepreneurship, and cognitive biases.

2 comments

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  1. You need several things, A business plan to start. What are your goals, and how do you plan to reach them? You should have at least one years living and operating expenses in the bank, in addition to what it takes to open your store. It will take twice what you expect in most cases just to open. I have opened and run many businesses.

    • Maxim Dsouza

      You’re spot on all the areas you’ve mentioned for opening and running a business. I have gone through the same challenges during my ventures. However, I am not clear how this comment is relevant to the topic of hiring a candidate with no experience for a small business.

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